Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Canyon Ferry Lake.

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Canyon Ferry Lake visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: USA - West - Montana - Gold West Country -

For lake lovers who relish the beauty of nature and the wonder of wildlife, there’s no better place to relax and have fun than at Canyon Ferry Lake. At 35,181 acres, Canyon Ferry Lake is one of Montana’s largest lakes, and one of the most popular recreational lakes in the state. It’s long and narrow, stretching 27 miles long, with 76 miles of shoreline. The lake offers breathtaking views of the Big Belt range of the Rocky Mountains (named for the limestone belt encircling the mountains), and is conveniently located only 15 to 20 miles away from Helena, Montana’s capital city.

Canyon Ferry Lake is a reservoir created by impounding the Missouri River. Canyon Ferry Dam, which was completed in 1954, is operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. The lake’s water is used for many purposes, including irrigation, hydropower, and flood control. Canyon Ferry Lake got its unique name from history. Back in the 1800’s, it was one of the places where miners and prospectors were ferried across the Missouri River.

With many points of access and plenty of nearby amenities, Canyon Ferry Lake is excellent for recreation. For boaters, there are several marinas, docks, and boat launches. Campers who want to bring their tents to sleep in the great outdoors have their pick of several nearby campgrounds. There are also areas to picnic, swim, and relax in the outdoors.

Visitors can enjoy almost any type of water sport on Canyon Ferry Lake. Water skiing and sailing are popular activities, but you can also enjoy windsurfing, motor-boating, and fishing. Anglers will enjoy casting their lines and reeling in walleye, rainbow trout, brown trout, ling (cobia), and perch.

The Canyon Ferry Lake area is a superb place to explore the wonderful world of nature. There is abundant wildlife in the area, and the Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area at the south end of the lake is a perfect spot to observe various types of birds and animals. It’s a bird watcher’s paradise with geese, herons, terns, ospreys, pelicans, and songbirds. Another unique spectacle in the area is the large groups of eagles that feed at the lake during the fall.

Montana winters may be chilly, but the snow and ice caused by the freezing temperatures make Canyon Ferry Lake perfect for winter sports. Ice fishing, ice boating, and ice boat racing are popular wintertime activities. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are other fun ways to enjoy the crisp winter air and soak in the beautiful scenery.

The beauty of Canyon Ferry Lake is unrivaled, and there are plenty of activities to keep the outdoor lover busy. Anglers, hunters, and nature lovers alike will appreciate the bounty of wildlife that surrounds it.

Custom Canyon Ferry Lake house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Canyon Ferry Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Canyon Ferry Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Perch
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout
  • Walleye

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Canyon Ferry Lake

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Canyon Ferry Lake photo gallery

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Canyon Ferry Lake statistics & helpful links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Bureau of Reclamation

Surface Area: 33,500 acres

Shoreline Length: 76 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3,797 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 3,809 feet

Maximum Depth: 160 feet

Water Volume: 1,891,888 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1955

Drainage Area: 15,860 sq. miles

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